A refuge and a place of belonging.
The scuffed hardwood floors, the large windows, and the piano sitting in the corner didn’t look like much but they welcomed me with open arms no matter what was going on in the world around me or how the worries I’d carried that day had threatened to swamp me. The ballet studio was my refuge.
Funny thing—it wasn’t even a real studio. The old building was once a school, built in 1910, ancient even in the 1980’s. Princess Public School is a two storey building which sits on Princess Street and still houses a dance school today. At the time my teacher rented it, travelling from London to Woodstock once a week to teach Royal Academy Ballet lessons to mostly girls from littles to adults who maybe wanted to feel a little like a princess.
Despite being a late beginner, I felt the magic of dance. It went beyond the pink slippers or the blue leotard and pink tights that I wore, that were in truth a little itchy. Although the ballet slippers made me so happy. Truthfully, I didn’t really fit in. My first year I danced in an adult class to learn the basics because I was thirteen year-old beginner. Throughtout my dance career I was always a little older than my classmates. I’m sure I was clumsy and I know I wasn’t that flexible but I loved my classes and my teachers, who treated me like I belonged, going out of their way to help me catch up. It was hard work that never felt like work.
But the greatest gift was the inner peace that took over once the music played. My mind, body and spirit focused, leaving behind the anxiety and worry that usually plagued it. In that time and space, all that existed was the barre, the music, and me. All that mattered was mastering the exercises. It was the best hour of the week.
That’s not to say I didn’t struggle. I remember one night several years into my lessons, when I was so mad and frustrated frustrated with myself that hot tears boiled up as I fled the school gym. Competitiveness spurred me on but it also was my nemesis.
As I reflect on those early years, I’m amazed at my younger self. I only knew one other girl at the studio but her lessons were at a different time so I was on my own. The kid who was worried about everything didn’t blink at entering a new world by herself. Go figure.
I was light years behind but I wasn’t discouraged. A small miracle.
The passion for dance and the arts lives on in my heart. I continued lessons well into adulthood and taught and choreographed productions for our church. I write about the world of dance in stories that I hope inspire other young dancers and dancers-at-heart.
Dance is still my place of peace and belonging. A gift from a heavenly Father who knew his daughter needed that one space that was hers only, that moment when a piece of his kingdom could slip into her anxious world and bring peace, calm. An offer of beauty and delight in this world and the promise of more to come in the next.